Washington, D.C. – Today, House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy (CA-23) participated in a Congressional Gold Medal Ceremony for Steve Gleason, an ALS advocate, a former safety in the NFL, and an American inspiration. Steve’s motto, “No White Flags,” reminds us that life’s challenges cannot hold us back. “Steve is leading the charge to making a difference in the lives of thousands of Americans who are fighting ALS,” McCarthy said. “You have set an amazing example of dignity, courage, and perseverance for all Americans.”
Remarks as prepared are below.
“Good afternoon. It is an honor to be here in Statuary Hall to present Steve Gleason with the Congressional Gold Medal — an award as storied, significant, and special as any trophy in professional sports.
“It takes a rare combination of character and grit to be presented Congress’s top award for service.
“Less than 200 Americans have received a Congressional Gold Medal — far fewer than the Presidential Medal of Freedom. That makes Steve a member of an elite club — an all pro-team, you could say.
“The first individual to receive this award was General George Washington. Today, the first professional football player to win it grew up in the state of Washington.
“I think Steve has a lot in common with the Father of our Country.
“Like Washington, Steve never quits; and he inspires others to fight for a cause greater than themselves.
“President Washington once said: “the harder the conflict, the greater the triumph.”
“Well, as I’m sure Steve would tell you, ALS is a very difficult condition. It is a cruel disease that paralyzes the body. As of right now, it has no known cure.
“But those fighting ALS surely want us to know that this condition cannot take away their fighting spirit. It will never diminish their will and determination.
“And though finding a cure may be difficult, that difficulty will only make the triumph of discovering one all the greater. And with his incredible organization, Team Gleason, Steve is leading the charge to making a difference in the lives of thousands of Americans who are fighting ALS.
“I imagine there are moments when that goal can seem unattainable.
“But remember this: independence seemed like a distant dream in 1776, when Washington’s army had not won a single battle against the British.
“Washington refused to wave the white flag.
“With courage and confidence in his soldiers, he surprised the Hessians at the Battle of Trenton, giving the American cause a pivotal victory.
“I often find inspiration from Washington’s grit in the early years of the Revolution. That is why I have a painting of him crossing the Delaware hanging in my office. I think it captures a moment in time that tells us many fundamental truths about what it means to be an American.
“Steve shares with Washington an ability to overcome adversity. His motto, “No White Flags,” emphasizes that life’s limitations cannot hold someone back from achieving their full potential.
“He deserves this award for all the hope he has created in the lives of others.
“Earlier, I said the Congressional Gold Medal is like a sports trophy. In fact, it is a lot like the Lombardi Trophy, the MVP Award, and a Super Bowl Ring all rolled into one.
“Like a Super Bowl Ring, it is unique. Steve’s award was specially-made and features him in his Saints jersey with trees in the background to pay homage to his home state.
“Like the MVP Award, it recognizes outstanding long-term accomplishments. Steve has raised awareness about ALS through his foundation for eight seasons and counting. His work funds groundbreaking research and provides invaluable speech technology to ALS patients, allowing them to communicate with their loved ones and retain more of their independence.
“And like the Lombardi Trophy, it can’t be won without teamwork. Steve has an incredible team beside him, starting with his lovely family — wife Michel, son Rivers, and baby daughter Gray. This award celebrates them too.
“Steve — on behalf of a proud and grateful nation, thank you for all you do for individuals with ALS. You have set an amazing example of dignity, courage, and perseverance for all Americans.
“May God continue to bless you, your family, and your friends. And may He continue to use you to make this world a better place for everyone.